A Red Knot on Ocracoke.

To see a listing and contact information for the Christmas Bird Counts in the Carolinas, click here 

By Text and photos by Peter Vankevich

Each year, Ocracoke participates in the Christmas Bird Count, the longest running wildlife census in the nation.

This year, the counts will be held Dec.30 on Ocracoke and Dec. 31 on Portsmouth Island.

Islanders and visitors interested in helping with these counts are welcome to spend a winter’s day or two identifying and counting the large variety of bird species here.

Last year on Ocracoke, 15 volunteers reported 79 species. Due to adverse weather conditions, the Portsmouth count was canceled.

Numbers of birds counted depend on how many counters help and the weather. High winds, rain, fog and even snow can lower the number of birds observed.

Last year there was a noticeable absence (or low numbers) of shorebirds on the beach on count day. 

Normally, there are plenty of Black-bellied Plovers, Willets, Killdeer, Red Knots, Sanderlings and Dunlin. They returned in big numbers the following week or so, following a big storm and freeze on the mainland.

Finding, identifying and counting the individual birds can be a challenge, and inexperienced counters are placed in teams with experienced ones.

Sometimes, as in the case of Double-crested Cormorants, estimates are made as they stream along the shore in the thousands, especially in the early morning.

The tallying ends with a pot luck dinner Dec. 31 to share in camaraderie and learn how many species were recorded, noting any rare birds for the region.

To participate, contact Peter Vankevich, text/cell 202 468-287, or email: petevankevich@gmail.com

This year’s count nationwide is from Dec. 14 through Jan. 5.

The Ocracoke count began in 1982 and Portsmouth in 1988.

Birders head to Portsmouth Island to participate in Christmas Bird Count there.
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